Слике страница



of his defeat; and vindicates himself from the idea of reflecting upon music meetings, or any other resort of the people of fashion, by urging that although a billet dour is represented as being there delivered, “ such a thing has been done before now in a church, without the place being thought the worse of.” But Southerne consoles himself for the disapprobation of the audience with the favour of Dryden, who, says he, “speaking of this play, has publicly said, the town was kind to : Sir Anthony Love;' I needed them only to be just to this.” And, after mentioning that Dry. den had intrusted to him, upon the credit of this play, the task of completing “Cleomenes,” he triumphantly adds, "If modesty be sometimes a weakness, what I say can hardly be a crime : in a

a fair English trial, both parties are allowed to be heard ; and without this vanity of mentioning Mr Dryden, I had lost the best evidence of my cause.” Dryden, not satisfied with a verbal exertion of his patronage, consoled his friend under his discomfiture, by addressing to him the following Epistle, in which his failure is ascribed to the taste for bustling intrigue, and for low and farcical humour.

It is not the Editor's business to trace Southerne's life, or poetical career. He was born in the county of Dublin, in 1659; and produced, in his twenty-third year, the tragedy of “ The Loyal Brother,” which Dryden honoured with a prologue. On this occasion, Southerne's acquaintance with our bard took place, under the whimsical circumstances mentioned Vol. X. The aged bard furnished also a prologue to Southerne's “Disappointment, or Mother in Fashion;" and as he had repeatedly ushered him to success, he presented him with the following lines to console him under disappointment. The poets appear to have continued on the most friendly terms until Dryden's death. Southerne survived him many years, and lived to be praised by the rising generation of a second century, for mildness of manners, and that cheerful and amiable disposition, which rarely is found in old age, unless from the happy union of a body at ease, and a conscience void of offence. When this dramatist was sixtyfive, his last play, called “Money the Mistress," was acted, with a prologue by Welsted, containing the following beautiful lines :t

p. 372.


* See the introductory remarks on that play, Vol. VIII.

+ Welsted, “ howe'er insulted by the spleen of Pope,” was a poet of merit. His fate is an instance, among a thousand, of the disadvantage sustained by an inferior genius, who enters into collision with one of supereminent talents. It is the combat of a gun-boat with a frigate; and many an author has been run down in such an encounter, who, had he avoided it, might have still enjoyed a fair portion of literary reputation. The apologue of the iron and earthen pot contains a moral applicable to such circumstances.


To you, ye fair, for patronage he sues ;
O last defend, who first inspired his muse!
In your soft service he has past his days,
And gloried to be born for woman's praise :
Deprest at length, and in your cause decay'd,
The good old man to beauty bends for aid ;
That beauty he has taught so oft to moan !
That ne'er let Imoinda weep alone,
And made his Isabella’s griefs its own!
Ere you arose to life, ye blooming train ;
Ere time brought forth our pleasure and our pain ;
He melted hearts, to monarchs' vows denied,
And soften'd to distress unconquer'd pride:
0! then protect, in his declining years,
The man, that fill’d your mothers' eyes with tears !
The last of Charles's bards! The living name,
That rose, in that Augustan age, to fame!
And you, his brother authors, bravely dare
To join to-night the squadrons of the fair ;
With zeal protect your veteran writer's page,
And save the drama's father, in his age :
Nor let the wreath from his grey head be torn,
For half a century with honour worn!
His merits let your tribe to mind recal;
Of some the patron, and the friend to all !
In him the poets' Nestor ye defend !

Great Otway's peer, and greater Dryden's friend. Southerne, on his eighty-first birth-day, was complimented with a copy of verses by Pope ; and on 26th May, 1746, he died at the advanced age of eighty-five and upwards.


[blocks in formation]



SURE there's a fate in plays, and 'tis in vain
To write, while these malignant planets reign.
Some very foolish influence rules the pit,
Not always kind to sense, or just to wit;
And whilst it lasts, let buffoonry succeed,
To make us laugh, for never was more need.
Farce, in itself, is of a nasty scent ;
But the gain smells not of the excrement.
The Spanish nymph, a wit and beauty too,
With all her charms, bore but a single show;
But let a monster Muscovite appear,
He draws a crowded audience round the year.
May be thou hast not pleased the box and pit ;
Yet those who blame thy tale applaud thy wit:
So Terence plotted, but so Terence writ.
Like his, thy thoughts are true, thy language clean;
Even lewdness is made moral in thy scene.*
The hearers may for want of Nokes † repine;
But rest secure, the readers will be thine.

* The moral of the “ Wives' Excuse” is as bad as possible; but the language of the play is free from that broad licence which disgraces the dramatic taste of the age.

† Nokes was then famous for parts of low humour. Cibber thus describes him : “ This celebrated comedian was of the mid.

Nor was thy labour'd drama damn'd or hiss'd,
But with a kind civility dismiss'd;
With such good manners as the Wife* did use,
Who, not accepting, did but just refuse.
There was a glance at parting ; such a look,
As bids thee not give o'er for one rebuke.
But if thou wouldst be seen, as well as read,
Copy one living author, and one dead.
The standard of thy style let Etherege be;
For wit, the immortal spring of Wycherly.
Learn, after both, to draw some just design,
And the next age will learn to copy thine. .

dle size, his voice clear and audible, his natural countenance grave and sober; but the moment he spoke, the settled seriousness of his features was utterly discharged, and a dry, drolling, or laughing levity, took such full possession of him, that I can only refer the idea of him to your imagination. In some of his low characters, that became it, he had a shuffling shamble in his gait, with so contented an ignorance in his aspect, and an awkward absurdity in his gesture, that, had you not known him, you could not have believed, that naturally he could have had a grain of common sense.” Our author insinuates, that the audience had been 80 accustomed to the presence of this facetious actor, that they could not tolerate a play where his low humour was excluded.

* Alluding to the character of Mrs Friendall in “ The Wives' Excuse."






HENRY HIGDEN was a member of the honourable society of the Middle Temple, and during the reigns of James II. and William III. held some rank among the wits of the age.

He wrote a play called “ Sir Noisy Parrot, or the Wary Widow," represented in 1693, which seems to have been most effectually damned; for in the preface the author complains, that “the theatre was by faction transformed into a bear-garden, hissing, mimicking, ridiculing, and cat-calling." I mention this circumstance, because amongst the poetical friends who hastened to condole with Mr Higden on the bad success of his piece, there is one who attributes it to the influence of our author over the inferior wits at Will's coffee-house. * But it seems more generally admitted, as

[ocr errors]

* From spawn of Will's, these wits of future tense,

He now appeals to men of riper sense ;
And hopes to find some shelter from the wrath
Of furious critics of implicit faith;
Whose judgment always ebb, but zeal flows high,
Who for these truths upon the church rely.
Will's is the mother-church : From thence their creed,
And as that censurés, poets must succeed.

Here the great patriarch of Parnassus sits,
And grants his bulls to the subordinate wits.

« ПретходнаНастави »